UNDERSTANDING THE CULTS — MORMONISM
In this twelve-part series we will take a brief look at some of the major cults,
past and present, that have found adherents in the United States. Your pastor
can help you if you’d like a more in-depth study of a particular group.
Typically, cults are characterized by having an authoritarian individual or group that claims direct revelation from God which—they claim—is superior to the revelation of the Bible, distortion or “spinning” of Bible passages, an emphasis on conformity to a prescribed behavioral pattern, and “secret” teachings not revealed to outsiders.
Mormons fit this description.
Some historical background: according to the teaching of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), An Israelite named Lehi moved to the Americas around 600 B.C. In A.D. 33, Jesus appeared to Lehi’s descendants, the Nephites. Mormon, a Nephite prophet, gave a nearly completed work to his son Moroni in A.D. 385. Moroni finished the work some thirty years later, imprinted the words (in no language known today) on gold plates, and buried them.
Joseph Smith (says the legend) received Moroni’s gold plates in 1827 and translated the plates into The Book of Mormon—much of which is plagiarized from the Bible while other parts contradict the Bible.
After Smith was killed in a jail cell in 1844, leadership of the church fell to Brigham Young and has been successively passed down through history to today’s prophet and president of the LDS.
The Book of Mormon is only one of four official truth sources for the LDS church, but it is considered greater than the others, including the Bible.
One of Smith’s articles of faith states, “We believe that through the atonement, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” Notice how everything after “saved” contradicts the first part of the sentence, and how twisting the meaning of the word Gospel makes it the opposite of the Bible’s Gospel of salvation by grace through faith.
Although the LDS church has worked diligently to present itself as mainstream and considers itself Christian, this is a deception. It is ultimately a non-Christian religion in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15) masquerading as a true teaching church (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
Some of the more startling teachings and practices of the LDS church capture the most attention. These include polygamy (no longer taught); “holy underwear”; the axiom, “What man is, God once was. What God is, man can become”; and the two-year missionary trips (now mostly superseded by online and social media presence). While LDS members know about these things, they are not considered vital. Doctrine is not primary, experience is. Their religion is more tied to a sense of family and community, perseverance in the face of trial, and outward works.
The emphasis on “lifestyle” notwithstanding, Mormons do have inflexible doctrinal positions. Brigham Young wrote, “Every spirit that confesses that Joseph Smith is a prophet, that he lived and died a prophet, and that the Book of Mormon is true, is of God, and every spirit that does not is of Anti-Christ.” While some practices and attitudes have changed, the foundation on which Mormonism is built has not.
A man-made book that is said to be greater than the Bible, a prophet equal in honor to Jesus, a “Jesus” who is not the Son of God made flesh to redeem the world of sinners, and a salvation built upon obedience to laws and ordinances—these doctrines contradict the Bible and deny the salvation accomplished by Jesus and received through faith apart from works. They mark the LDS as being a non-Christian cult.
Speaking the Truth in Love to Mormons (Mark J. Cares, Northwestern Publishing House, 1993) is a helpful resource for learning more about Mormonism and the best way to witness to Mormons.
Wayne Eichstadt is pastor of Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Spokane Valley, Washington.